Sonoma's French evolution

Posted on March 3, 2014 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Readying for a trip to France in July are Sonoma Valley High School French students Maddy Libby, Renée O’Donnell, Travis Claeys, French teacher Devin Daly, Hallie Stava, Oscar O’Donnell, Micaela Luque, Natalie Baker, Anna Stava, Jay Swisher and Fabian Metelmann.

The second annual trip is part of French-American foreign exchange program at SVHS, organized by Daly and two teachers living in Aix-en-Provence. When he heard about such exchanges with Petaluma High and Casa Grande High in the past, Daly made sure SVHS students have the same opportunity.

“Ten students have signed up to be part of the exchange, and they are already meeting to plan their adventure,” said Daly, who donates his time and helps raise money to offset student costs. “The program provides an authentic cultural and linguistic experience by having each student live in and become part of his or her host family in France.”

Daly is a longtime Francophile. Inspired by Peter Mayle ‘s “A Year in Provence” and Frances Mayes’ “Under the Tuscan Sun,” he too rebuilt an old farmhouse in France. Later, his first child would be born there.

Of the impending trip,, Oscar O’Donnell, class of 2016, said, “I can only imagine what it will be like overseas. Going outside of my home country will undoubtedly widen my view of the world. I will also be independent from my parents and my life right now. I’ll be living with another family, so I’ll have to expand my mind from the norm I’m used to.”

Kyle Land, class of 2013, participated last year. “The experiences I had with my French family helped prepare me for college and the many challenges I will encounter away from the security of home. I learned how to rely on my own judgment and assertiveness to get what I wanted without using English.”

This April, French students will arrive in Sonoma and spend two weeks with their hosts. Explains Daly, “Thanks in part to Principal Hawing, the visitors will have the opportunity to shadow their hosts at SVHS three days per week. On the weekends and during the week, when not attending school, you will surely see them around town.”

Daly said that Karen Buscher from Donna’s Tour & Travel has been very generous with facilitating the air travel for students, and that the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation supported the voyage last year. “This year, the Valley of the Moon Pétanque Club will take part in a Meet, Eat and Compete fundraising event at their courts in Depot Park,” he said.

Daly said that the visiting French nationals really appreciate getting a closer look at life in America. “Simple things such as a tour of the firehouse, a backyard barbecue, a ride in a convertible, all contribute to their experience.

Those interested in welcoming the French students while they are here in April can contact Daly at SVHS.

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